E-MAIL REPLY BY DR SING
Thank you for your email. As every puppy is unique, it will be most difficult for an outsider like me to know why the puppy's behaviour and reaction to your management is not what you expected. It is like parenting. Some parents produce scholars without bribery or threats, others suffer from dishonest and cheating offsprings. I will try to give you my point of view in your queries in CAPITAL LETTERS below.
2011/5/18 XXX <...@hotmail.com>
Dear Dr Sing,
I have been reading your blog entries and answers to many puppy owners and pretty much almost all of the available puppy training websites that are worth reading on the internet. I have also tried to use all the (positive reinforcement) methods and to look out for signs of my puppy needing to pee etc, but I still have a problem I need your help with. I really hope you can help me.
Please bear with me as my email is quite lengthy. I figured it'll be good to give you a clearer picture of what life is like for my Moomoo.
MM is 4+ months now, and is a cross between a Japanese Spitz and Papillon. We got her when she was only 1.5 months old and for the last 2+ months I have been trying to train her relentlessly, even watching her for hours straight just to catch her in the act.
For the first month that we brought her back, we put her in a 1x1 playpen and used a divider to partition off a part of her playpen such that 50% of the space was occupied with her pee tray, and 50% was her feeding/sleeping area (as per your advice to one of the shih tzu owners who wrote to you.) I used those house breaking aid spray to scent mark the newspapers inside the peetray as well. I would sit by her playpen and "accompany" her while waiting for her to pee.
Initially my puppy pooped correctly all the time, and peed outside of her pee tray. Within the first 2 weeks of bringing her back, she seemed to pee and poop on the pee tray 80% of the time. Some days, she even does it correctly 100%. Thereafter, as the weeks passed, instead of getting better, she seemed to pee wrongly all the time again.
AT THE END OF 2-4 WEEKS, YOUR PUPPY NEEDED MORE CLEAN AREAS BUT YOU DID NOT EXTEND HIS 'GROSS FLOOR AREA' (GFA). I am using a real estate term. It means that the living space in the playpen ought to have increased by 100% (by buying more fencing panels, so that the puppy can lie down on clean areas further away from its toilet area. This GFA gets increased so that by 8 WEEKS, there IS NO NEED TO CONFINE THE PUPPY 100%. A door or opened end of the playpen directs the puppy to the toilet area.
And the last straw came when one day she even pooped outside the pee tray, something that she almost never does.
I eventually realized, after reading through many many MANY websites, that the cause of her confusion and inability to learn the correct place to pee/poop is due to the fact that her playpen was situated on marble flooring in my living room. Marble, being porous, is like a hard sponge that absorbs the pee. So even though I cleaned the area with enzymatic cleansers, she still seemed to pee wrongly all the time. This was probably due to the fact that her pee has already seeped under the surface and hence her entire playpen area was filled with her urine smell, thus confusing her.
MAY NEED TO TRY WHITE VINEGAR:WATER AT 1 PART TO 3 PARTS to neutralise the urine smell of put NEWSPAPERS OR WHITE PAPERS AT THE BEGINNING. Some enzymatic cleansers don't work.
After 1 month+ of trying to train her to pee/poop on her peetray, to no avail, I decided to move her entire peetray into the kitchen, where the floor is tiled (making it easier to clean, and doesnt absorb urine smell as much as marble.) By now she had grown slightly bigger and I was worried that her pee tray might be too small for her, hence causing the misaims.
Hence, I bought a new & slightly bigger pee tray with raised sides and decided to start retraining her again from scratch, hoping that the new peetray with raised sides would help as she would have to STEP INTO the peetray to do her business. Attached is the picture of her playpen now, after moving it to the kitchen.
PEE TRAY LOOKS SMALL TO ME.
1) My puppy mostly poops inside the peetray now (and I always pick up the poop and wash the grate immediately after she poops). But her peeing still drives me mad. I need to understand why my puppy does not pee inside her pee tray? To be fair, she pees correctly mostly during the first 1-2 times after I change the peepad/newspapers inside the peetray. Thereafter she would pee outside of the peetray. I change her peepad/newspapers once to twice daily, as soon as it is too soiled.
THIS MAY BE A CASE OF URINE MARKING. IT DOES OCCUR IN FEMALE DOGS TOO.
2) In the first 1 month of potty training, whenever I catch her in the act of peeing outside of her pee tray, I would clap or make a loud "NO!" to startle her, before carrying her to the right place. Whenever I do not catch her in the act, I just say bad girl and clean up the mess. Somehow, I think it might have led to her thinking that she shouldnt pee infront of me. Nowadays, even though I watch her for 2 hours waiting for her to pee, she would hold it in. Sometimes she walks onto her pee tray and sniffs around, and I will say "Potty!" but she wouldnt do it. The moment I leave her for 30 secs, for a pee/coffee break or something, she would pee. And most of the time, it would be in the wrong place. *sigh* What should I do about this?
URINE MARKING BEHAVIOUR HAS BEEN INHIBITED OR PROHIBITED BY YOU. SO THE DOG DARES NOT PEE (TO MARK HER TERRITORY) WHEN YOU ARE AROUND.
TO GIVE YOU A REAL EXAMPLE, MY ASSOCIATE VET BRINGS HER ADULT DOG TO THE SURGERY. THIS IS AN ADULT NEUTERED DOG. HE STILL URINE MARKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE ANIMAL HOLDING ROOM WHEN NOBODY IS AROUND. A LARGE POOL OF URINE.
Whenever she pees correctly I will praise and treat her, make a fuss and she seems to understand, as she becomes excited and jumps around. I also let her out for about 15 minutes of supervised playtime if she pees correctly. This is aside from the 45min-1hour playtime she gets to run around in the garden.
URINE MARKING IS PART OF THE NATURAL BEHAVIOUR OF DOGS AND SOME GET NEVER BE TRAINED NOT TO URINE MARK.
3) From the many websites and case studies I read, dogs tend to not want to poop where they eat, and vice versa. However, I realised whenever I give Moomoo a nice treat like a bone which takes an hour to finish chewing on, she liked to bring her food/toy onto her peetray, and she will chew on it and play with it inside her pee tray. This seems to be an unlikely behavior for dogs. Why would she want to eat and play on her peetray?
PROBABLE REASONS ARE:
1. INSUFFICIENT SPACE TO LIE DOWN TO ENJOY A GOOD CHEW BONE AS YOU HAVE NOT EXTENDED THE GFA WITH TIME.
2. THE GRATE OF THE PEE TRAY IS QUITE CLEAN SINCE YOU USE A LOT OF CHEMICALS TO MASK ITS SMELLS (I presume you clean thoroughly many times).
3. THE DOG'S NOSE IS DESENSITISED TO HER OWN URINE SMALLS SINCE SHE HAS SUCH A SMALL AREA TO LIE UPON.
Especially when its a new exciting treat/toy. She seems to like to bring it to her peetray, lie in it and explore the treat/toy slowly. It seems a little unhygenic. I try carrying her out of her peetray but she always runs back there. She can even eat on her peetray that she has just peed on (soiled). Why does she use her peetray for the wrong reasons, after so many months?
Actually I feel that she is a very smart dog because within 4 months she has already learnt: sit, down, paw, high5, spin, bang!, rollover, leave it, stay and walk. I would think that she would learn to pee correctly by now. But she hasnt.
URINE MARKING IS OFTEN MISTAKEN BY OWNERS AS A FAILURE IN TOILET TRAINING. MANY OWNERS ASSUME FEMALE DOGS DON'T URINE MARK.
Is there something I am doing wrongly? If so, what? How can I help Moomoo learn that she should pee in the peetray and not elsewhere within her playpen? I am confining her within the playpen except for the 45min-1hr playtime she gets daily, and her 15 min "reward" playtimes. I am waiting for the day she is 95-100% spot-on peeing on her pee tray and I can be confident that she will be able to know where to pee/poop, before I allow her to roam freely around the kitchen/living room area, unsupervised.
It has been almost three months since I brought her home. Most puppies would have been trained in 2 weeks. Whats wrong??
FROM YOUR DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PUPPY'S BEHAVIOUR, SHE HAS BEEN TRAINED ON THE PEE TRAY. HOWEVER SHE GETS A LOT OF ATTENTION FROM YOU IF SHE 'MISBEHAVES' SOMETIMES.
AT OTHER TIMES, SHE NEEDS TO URINE MARK.
Thank you, your reply and assistance is very very much appreciated. I swear. Really hope to hear from you soon.
IN CONCLUSION, YOU MAY WISH TO TRY ANOTHER METHOD.
1. TWO AREAS - SEPARATE AND FAR FROM EACH OTHER. ONE IS FOR SLEEPING, EATING, AND DRINKING. ONE IS THE TOILET AREA.
2. THE PUPPY IN THIS NEW CLEAN AREA IS CONFINED AND/OR LEASED TO YOU OR UNDER SUPERVISION.
3. USE THE FORMULA N-1 WHERE N=AGE OF PUPPY IN MONTHS.
4. FOR EXAMPLE, AT 4 MONTHS OF AGE, N-1=3. BRING HER OUT FROM THE NEW CLEAN CONFINED AREA EVERY 3 HOURS TO THE PEE TRAY TO PEE. THEN PUT HER BACK TO HER NEW LIVING AREA. AT 5TH MONTH, THIS SHOULD BE AROUND 4-HOURLY. TRIAL AND ERROR AS SHE MAY NOT PEE EXACTLY ON TIME. REWARDS AND PRAISES ON SUCCESS.
P.S ALL BETS ARE OFF IF SHE URINE MARKS. YOU ARE BETTER OFF GOING TO THE CASINOS AS THE N-1 METHOD WILL NOT WORK!
LET ME KNOW IF YOU CAN ADOPT THIS METHOD. BEST WISHES.